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Bailey's Take on Conference USA

From the Anchor Desk
Tuesday, November 27, 2001

By Brian Bailey
Sports Anchor of WNCT-TV 9

Bowl Situation Murky, but ECU in the Mix


Rarely does a team get a chance to play for a bowl berth in consecutive games.

East Carolina was 0-2 in that very situation. The Pirates had a shot at the Liberty Bowl, but couldn’t beat Louisville at home. The Pirates had a shot at the GMAC Bowl, but couldn’t beat Southern Miss at home.

Still, ECU is very much  a part of a muddled bowl picture for Conference USA.

Louisville is in the Liberty Bowl as the C-USA champion. The Cardinals will most likely meet BYU in Memphis, though the Cougars still have hopes of a BCS at-large bid.

From there, we’ve got five teams vying for three bowl slots. East Carolina is the only team that has completed its regular season. The Pirates were 6-5 this season.

Southern Miss is 6-3 with a game in Birmingham against Alabama on Thursday night. The Golden Eagles also host Texas Christian on December 7th and could finish 8-3 with a possible national ranking — or, they could stumble home at 6-5.

TCU came up with a big win over Louisville to vault into the bowl hunt. The Horned Frogs are 5-5 and have to win at Southern Miss to become bowl eligible.

UAB is 6-4 and has a critical game this weekend at Pittsburgh. A UAB win would move the Blazers to 7-4, an attractive record for a school without a great traveling reputation.

Finally, Cincinnati is 6-4 and should move to 7-4 with a win over Louisiana-Monroe.

After talking with league officials and several representatives from the relevant bowls, here’s how I think it shakes out:

GMAC Bowl: Decided Sunday night to delay a decision on a team until after this coming weekend. With the second pick, the rest of the bowls have to wait until Mobile makes a decision. Southern Miss is in with a win over Alabama. UAB might be considered with a win over Pitt, and a Southern Miss loss. East Carolina is high on the list because of the travel reputation of Pirate fans. TCU and Cincinnati are longshots. Bowl: Has the third selection and bowl officials liked what they got with East Carolina last year. If Mobile chooses the Pirates, then Southern Miss would likely go to Houston. The Bowl also likes TCU, but the Horned Frogs have to beat Southern Miss to become bowl eligible. There is also a very real possibility that this bowl might take the winner of the Southern Miss-TCU game.  Cincinnati is considered a longshot.

Motor City Bowl: Cincinnati is the favorite, because the Bearcats are the closest to Pontiac. Also, it would be an Ohio rivalry, with Cincy matching up with Toledo from the MAC. East Carolina is high on the list, because the Pirates have yet to play in the Motor City Bowl. TCU and UAB are considered longshots.

Bailey's Scenario

Brian Teter, Assistant Commissioner from Conference USA, says there really isn’t anything concrete, just yet.

“I really thing we’ll see something by the end of the weekend,” Teter said. “I still feel that East Carolina is an attractive choice for one of our bowls, because the Pirates fans have proven that they will travel and support their team.

After talking to Teter and a representative from each of the bowls on Monday, I came up with this scenario:

Southern Miss loses to Alabama and UAB falls at Pittsburgh. That sends East Carolina to Mobile, Cincinnati to Pontiac, and the winner of the Southern Miss-TCU game to Houston.

I like that scenario best.

Another one is, if Southern Miss wins it heads to Mobile. If UAB loses, then Houston could provide a scenario for TCU to go to the Bowl, if the Frogs beat Southern Miss on December 7th. A TCU loss would then send the Pirates back to Houston for a second straight season.

Obviously we’d much rather be talking about a Liberty Bowl matchup with BYU. But after a disappointing 6-5 record, any bowl would be welcome.

Here’s hoping that East Carolina’s David Garrard, Leonard Henry and Pernell Griffin, and others, will get one more shot!

Conference USA Power Rankings [112701]

1. Louisville — Though the Cards came up FLAT against TCU.

2. Southern Miss — Golden Eagles still have two key games to go. Win over Alabama nails down a bowl bid.

3. East Carolina — Still feel like the Pirates are as good as anyone in the league, but losses to number one and two end hopes of a league title.

4. Cincinnati — Bearcats should go to 7-4 this weekend.

5. UAB — Blazers just don’t have enough history to get a bowl bid this year.

6. TCU — Horned Frogs need another upset win to sneak into the bowl scene.

7. Memphis — Tigers lost showdown to Cincy to end their bowl hopes.

8. Army — Rooting hard for the Black Knights this week against Navy.

9. Tulane — Green Wave glad the season is over.

10. Houston — There is something to be said for perfection. Cougars go for 0-11 at Georgia this week.

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02/23/2007 01:19:53 AM

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